News on the international front may be unremittingly bad but the domestic season still has plenty of excitement to offer (unless you’re a Leicestershire or Northamptonshire fan).
A 50-over competition was reinstated at county level this year in part to ensure that those pushing for a place in England’s ODI team had a chance to play the same format for their clubs. It makes sense in theory. Perhaps the dividend is due next year.
The Royal London Cup ought to be one of the season’s centrepieces. But it has felt like an afterthought crunched into a three-week gap between T20 Blast matches and a round of the Championship. The absence of any minor county or university means it lacks the romance of past tournaments.
With the first semi-final on Thursday it is time to stop grumbling and get on with enjoying the cricket. Warwickshire have the treble in their sights and are favourites to beat Kent, who are seeking a route out of long-term doldrums. On the face of it, the men of the south have a tough task ahead: they are up against a formidable top order of Varun Chopra, William Porterfield, Jonathan Trott and Rikki Clarke. But Kent have a nice mix of experience (Rob Key, Mitch Claydon, Darren Stevens) and youthful promise (Sam Billings, Adam Riley and Fabian Cowdrey) and could spring a surprise.
There is enough quality on show in the competition’s latter stages (Paul Collingwood’s Durham take on Nottinghamshire on Saturday) to suggest all is not lost when it comes to English ability in the 50-over format. But county performances are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to international success. Just look at Virat Kohli: only 34 of his 171 “List A” matches have not been ODIs; of England’s line-up only Joe Root, with 28, has played fewer games at domestic level.
Keedy the latest spinner to turn back time
Had Gary Keedy been 10 years younger, he might well have found himself playing Test matches this summer. A decade ago, he was kept out of a strong side by Ashley Giles’ more utilitarian skills, and the subsequent development of Monty Panesar, then Graeme Swann, meant a call-up never came. Lancashire were the beneficiaries.
The 39-year-old moved on to Surrey last season, then ended up at Nottinghamshire – primarily as spin-bowling coach and assistant physio. But, called up from semi-retirement, he did his best to keep his new employers in the hunt for the title by dismissing Durham’s top three on Monday.
There is a tradition of retired spinners making comebacks – Brad Hogg and Phil Edmonds, to name two contrasting examples. Keedy’s return is a welcome antidote to the notion that the modern game is all about speed, power and youth. It gives comfort to those of us who, well into our thirties, hope the best of our cricketing days might lie ahead.